You would think after 15 years of marriage, my wife and I would have figured out how to argue well with one another. We’ve had the same argument since we’ve been married—she wants me to spend less time looking at my phone and I’ve wanted her to take care of the house more (at least according to my standards). This last time, we realized we were stuck. However, we both realized we needed to learn how to argue and move forward together when there’s conflict. Do you know how to argue with your spouse?
I encourage you to start with yourself first. Don’t look at your wife and blame her when things are rocky. Take a good look in the mirror and ask some hard questions. If we truly want change, especially in this area, we must understand the reasons behind our reactions and responses when conflict arises. Here are 5 reasons you stink at fighting with your wife.
1. You misinterpret.We can run to the wrong conclusions if we don’t interpret our wives correctly.
We can run to the wrong conclusions if we don’t interpret our wives correctly. Many times I heard my wife express her frustration with my phone use and interpreted it to mean she was tired of me personally and thought I was a terrible husband. But she actually meant that she feels disconnected and neglected when I’m more focused on my phone than on our family. A better practice than prematurely interpreting what our wives mean is to say this: “What I hear you saying is ___________. Is that accurate?” This allows her to clarify and prevents misinterpretation.
2. You lack empathy.
Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from his or her point of view. When your wife senses that you’re not trying to understand her point of view, it’s incredibly frustrating. Instead of fighting to have your point of view understood and respected, get to know your wife’s position first. When you can clearly articulate to your wife why she’s taking her position or feeling the way she is, you’re on your way to healthily resolving conflict.
3. You’re passive-aggressive.
Passive aggression avoids direct communication, such as staying silent when a response is expected or sarcastically making light of a serious matter. It’s when you don’t directly address something you should address. My regular passive-aggressive response when I’m upset with my wife is “I’m just tired.” What usually happens is feelings fester and I get more passive-aggressive. I stonewall her, complain under my breath, or just avoid her altogether. Gentlemen, this accomplishes nothing—other than making the conflict worse. Learn to address issues directly and in a timely manner.
4. You simply desire to “win.”
Here’s why this point is so tricky: When you argue with your wife, there’s not always a clearly defined “win.” Conflict is usually going to require concessions (a.k.a. sacrifice) from one person or both. When I argued poorly with my wife in the past, it’s because I didn’t want to give in and “lose.” We don’t realize our little “wins” in these arguments really set us up to lose in the long run. You have to remember you are on a journey through life with your wife. She is a partner, a teammate. Great teams that win often have great teammates who win together. It may be helpful when you are in the heat of the conflict to work to define what the “win” is and fight for it—together.
5. You have trust issues.
As much as I hate to admit it, I still have some trust issues, even with my wife. It most likely has a lot to do with my upbringing, how I saw my parents resolve conflict, or the wounds that I’ve experienced. One of the best ways to heal and move forward is actually learning how to argue with your spouse in a productive way. I’ve noticed when my wife and I agree to work together through conflict, it instills deeper trust. There’s deeper intimacy to be found with your wife when you learn to trust her and connect with her in conflict. That’s something to fight for.
Sound off: Why do you think it’s so challenging to be open and vulnerable with your wife, especially when arguing?
Huddle up with your wife and ask, “How well do you think we do at resolving conflict? What could I do as a husband to help improve those moments?”